If you've a thing against fire, a visit to Shimousa Noda Atago Shrine in sleepy Noda City, Chiba Prefecture, may just be the thing to help to calm your nerves.
Like the other 900 Atago Shrines found throughout Japan, Noda's one was built as a ward against fire - a familiar calamity in Japan. The shrine is dedicated to the Shinto fire deity, Kagu-tsuchi, who, with his searing birth, saw the end of his mother. His father wasn't too pleased with this and promptly lopped off his son's head. A fiery deity, Kagu-tsuchi understandably needed placating in order to minimise his oxidising tendencies.
The story of Kagu-tsuchi, however, stands in stark contrast to the semi-sleepiness of the shrine grounds. Describing them as an oasis in the midst of a modern hustle and bustle may be taking it too far. Still, it is peaceful.
Atago Shrine is said to have been established back in 923, though the current building dates back to 1828. The building itself is such an amazing example of devoted architecture from the Edo period - the carved wooden motifs on the building itself are extraordinarily detailed - that it's been listed as a Tangible Cultural Property of Chiba Prefecture.
In addition to Atago Shrine, there are several much smaller shrines on the grounds, with their own torii gates and moss-attracting shakujin stone monuments. Collectively, with their wooden construction and moss on stone, they give the entire shrine compound a distinct feeling of age.
If the atmosphere of the shrine is anything to go buy, the locals have successfully soothed Kagu-tsuchi. A good thing too. We'd hate to see such treasures sent up in smoke.
Take the Tobu Urban Park line to Atago station. Head out the exit, and walk west down the road until you reach the shrine at the main intersection. It's only a couple of minutes' walk.
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